Auckland's Green Offices: Kiwi gym leads pack

By Rosie Bosworth

Walk in the park: Les Mills found it surprisingly easy to go green. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Walk in the park: Les Mills found it surprisingly easy to go green. Photo / Ted Baghurst

One might think that gaining a formal environmental accreditation would require a fair bit of hard graft for the average Kiwi company.

However, for Les Mills New Zealand, the headquarters of the global fitness empire, becoming the first company in New Zealand to be awarded the Environmental Choice New Zealand's (ECNZ) new "Green Office" specification was literally a walk in the park.

Over the past decade environmental mindfulness and a mission to "Be Green" have increasingly become one of the key aims of Les Mills New Zealand.

So it was no surprise when ECNZ approached Les Mills NZ in 2013 to become the first company to roll out its new rigorous environmental office activities specification.

What was surprising, however, was just how easy the company's journey to receiving the green seal of approval was. According to Joanna Ealand, Les Mills New Zealand's national facility and sustainability manager, many of ECNZ's green office activities required to drive environmental improvement were already happening within the business.

Carbon reporting, energy efficient lighting, low-flow water features, energy management and waste reduction are all areas the company has successfully integrated into its daily practice for years now.

"What the ECNZ accreditation made us realise was that we were already so green. We just hadn't formalised what we were doing."

For example, Les Mills has been measuring its carbon footprint since 2010. Even prior to environmental accreditation, the company had already put in place systems, processes and investment in technology to reduce key offenders driving its carbon footprint, such as gas, electricity, travel and waste.

"Measuring carbon keeps us honest; we are continuously improving over time. We track it so we know where our weaknesses are and then we act on them."

"Be Green" is an office motto for Les Mills' office in Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
"Be Green" is an office motto for Les Mills' office in Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Office waste reduction and recycling programmes have also been standard practice for many years. Ealand herself established a worm farm onsite to further reduce organic and kitchen waste. She says the level of recyclable waste has shot up from 50 to 78 per cent since the establishment of such initiatives.

While many environmental initiatives aimed at reducing its environment burden were already taking place in-house, Ealand explains that partnering with ECNZ has been instrumental in Les Mill further reducing carbon footprint.

The accreditation process highlighted how the company was lacking a formal methodology that monitored, measured and formally charted its existing performance - vital for making ongoing environmental improvement.

"ECNZ was, for us, more about ticking the actual 'boxes' for us to formalise our existing green initiatives."

With continual monitoring, measuring and reporting the company now easily spots additional gaps where it can make gains. A recent example saw the company engaging in sustainable ICT procurement and E-waste management.

"Even the types of photocopiers we use now have to be EPEAT gold certified - a comprehensive global environmental rating system which helps purchasers identify high-performance greener computers and electronics. We've also had to ensure that all existing supplier contracts were aligned with our practices and environmental visions. Everything from paper and office supplies to cleaning products."

The payoffs in terms of the social aspects of going green in the office also appear to be beneficial. "It has been easy for people to get on board. It's almost like they feel a little bit proud of it."

The company wants to be known as New Zealand's best restorative business - one which gives back more environmentally than it takes. "Many say becoming restorative is an impossible quest, that's why we're excited about taking it on."

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